As you will recall, we asked an important question this week…
According to a source that is in the know, Judge Johnathan D. Grine was removed (or removed himself) from presiding over all criminal cases (with the odd exception of two cases that are set for jury trial).
In those two remaining cases, he went on the record before the proceedings and reportedly read a prepared statement admitting that for a certain period of time he had contact with Stacy Parks Miller by text and phone. He also stated on the record that she was his divorce attorney in his first divorce.
He had never made these declarations to any criminal defendants or their counsel on the record before.
It is theorized that the Judicial Conduct Board forced him to read the admissions or that he is taking these actions in order to stave off a JCB inquiry.
It is unclear if the removal from criminal cases was a result of the Judicial Conduct Board or at the order of the President Judge or his own doing. In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter.
The Code of Judicial Conduct reads…
Rule 2.2. Impartiality and Fairness.
A judge shall uphold and apply the law, and shall perform all duties of judicial office fairly and impartially.
(1) To ensure impartiality and fairness to all parties, a judge must be objective and open-minded.
(2) Although each judge comes to the bench with a unique background and personal philosophy, a judge must interpret and apply the law without regard to whether the judge approves or disapproves of the law in question. This comment is not intended to restrict the appropriate functions of the courts in statutory or common law review.
(3) When applying and interpreting the law, a judge sometimes may make good-faith errors of fact or law. Errors of this kind do not violate this Rule.
(4) It is not a violation of this Rule for a judge to make reasonable accommodations to ensure pro se litigants the opportunity to have their matters heard fairly and impartially.
Rule 2.9. Ex parte Communications.
(A) A judge shall not initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications, or consider other communications made to the judge outside the presence of the parties or their lawyers, concerning a pending or impending matter, except as follows:
(1) When circumstances require it, ex parte communication for scheduling, administrative, or emergency purposes, which does not address substantive matters, is permitted, provided:
(a) the judge reasonably believes that no party will gain a procedural, substantive, or tactical advantage as a result of the ex parte communication; and
(b) the judge makes provision promptly to notify all other parties of the substance of the ex parte communication, and gives the parties an opportunity to respond.
(2) A judge may obtain the written advice of a disinterested expert on the law applicable to a proceeding before the judge, if the judge gives advance notice to the parties of the person to be consulted and the subject matter of the advice to be solicited, and affords the parties a reasonable opportunity to object and respond to the notice and to the advice received.
(3) A judge may consult with court staff and court officials whose functions are to aid the judge in carrying out the judge’s adjudicative responsibilities, or with other judges, provided the judge makes reasonable efforts to avoid receiving factual information that is not part of the record, and does not abrogate the responsibility to decide the matter personally.
(4) A judge may, with the consent of the parties, confer separately with the parties and their lawyers in an effort to settle matters pending before the judge.
(5) A judge may initiate, permit, or consider any ex parte communication when expressly authorized by law to do so.
(B) If a judge inadvertently receives an unauthorized ex parte communication bearing upon the substance of a matter, the judge shall promptly notify the parties of the substance of the communication and provide the parties with an opportunity to respond.
(C) A judge shall not investigate facts in a matter independently, and shall consider only the evidence presented and any facts that may properly be judicially noticed.
(D) A judge shall make reasonable efforts, including providing appropriate supervision, to ensure that this Rule is not violated by court staff, court officials, and others subject to the judge’s direction and control.
(E) It is not a violation of this Rule for a judge to initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications expressly authorized by law, such as when serving on therapeutic or problem-solving courts, mental health courts, or drug courts. In this capacity, a judge may assume a more interactive role with the parties, treatment providers, probation officers, social workers, and others.
(1) To the extent reasonably possible, all parties or their lawyers shall be included in communications with a judge.
(2) Whenever the presence of a party or notice to a party is required by this Rule, it is the party’s lawyer, or if the party is unrepresented, the party, who is to be present or to whom notice is to be given.
(3) The proscription against communications concerning a proceeding includes communications with lawyers, law teachers, and other persons who are not participants in the proceeding, except to the limited extent permitted by this Rule.
(4) A judge shall avoid comments and interactions that may be interpreted as ex parte communications concerning pending matters or matters that may appear before the court, including a judge who participates in electronic social media.
(5) A judge may consult with other judges on pending matters, but must avoid ex parte discussions of a case with judges who have previously been disqualified from hearing the matter, and with judges who have appellate jurisdiction over the matter.
(6) The prohibition against a judge investigating the facts in a matter extends to information available in all mediums, including electronic.
(7) A judge may consult ethics advisory committees, outside counsel, or legal experts concerning the judge’s compliance with this Code. Such consultations are not subject to the restrictions of paragraph (A)(2).
(8) In order to obtain the protection afforded to ex parte communication under paragraph (E) of this Rule, a judge should take special care to make sure that the participants in such voluntary special court programs are made aware of and consent to the possibility of ex parte communications under paragraph (E).
Many men and women have served our country to provide us and guarantee us all the right to vote. Untold countless gallons of blood, sweat and tears have been shed so that the people, the electorate, has the right to choose in an election.
The electorate of Centre County elects a judge to fulfill ALL of their duties. The other judges of Centre County deserve a full complement of judges who can fulfill all of their duties.
If these reports are true and correct, Judge Johnathan D. Grine must resign immediately. It is the honorable thing to do. This way he keeps his pension. He can do the dishonorable thing and try to “ride it out” so he can continue to betray the trust of those who elected him and the citizens of Centre County and all of those who have shed blood, sweat and tears that defend our state and federal constitutions.
Per the reports and the allegations, he has clearly violated Cannon 1 of the Code of Judicial Conduct 1: A judge shall uphold and promote the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.
Time to face the facts. Time to confess your sins. Time to retire.